Gender Categories as Dual-Character Concepts?

AbstractThe folk theory of gender seems to involve two contradictory beliefs that people can hold simultaneously. One is that gender is biologically determined and immutable, and the other is that one has to earn gender membership by following gender norms or otherwise risk disqualifying oneself as a real member of the gender category. To explain this contradiction, as Leslie (2015) suggested, we turned to the dual-character concept framework proposed by Knobe, Prasada, and Newman (2013). Within this framework, we examined whether gender has two separate, parallel dimensions for evaluating category membership such that one can be a member in one sense but not the other. We found that gender concepts appeared dual-character-like in metalinguistic judgments but not in judgments of specific individuals who violate stereotypical, prescriptive gender norms. We might be witnessing a historical change where gender categories remain dual-character-like, but adherence to specific gender norms is no longer seen as definitional.

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